We live in a world where telling a comforting lie is rewarded way above telling an inconvenient truth. It’s no secret that Fox News has made mega bucks by putting bias confirmation and hype before the reporting of actual facts, but this is a bridge too far. Political editor Chris Stirewalt called the State of Arizona for Joe Biden on election night and he was summarily discharged from his post, during a “restructuring” at the network — also after inciting the “murderous rage” of the Trump cult. He shares his thoughts in an op/ed published in the Los Angeles Times:
The rebellion on the populist right against the results of the 2020 election was partly a cynical, knowing effort by political operators and their hype men in the media to steal an election or at least get rich trying. But it was also the tragic consequence of the informational malnourishment so badly afflicting the nation.
When I defended the call for Biden in the Arizona election, I became a target of murderous rage from consumers who were furious at not having their views confirmed.
Having been cosseted by self-validating coverage for so long, many Americans now consider any news that might suggest that they are in error or that their side has been defeated as an attack on them personally. The lie that Trump won the 2020 election wasn’t nearly as much aimed at the opposing party as it was at the news outlets that stated the obvious, incontrovertible fact.
While there is still a lucrative market for a balanced offering of news and opinion at high-end outlets, much of the mainstream is increasingly bent toward flattery and fluff. Most stories are morally complicated and don’t have white hats and black hats. Defeats have many causes and victories are never complete. Reporting these stories requires skill and dispassion. But hearing them requires something of consumers, too: Enough humility to be open to learning something new.
I remain confident that the current depredations of the digital revolution will pass, just as those of the telegraph, radio and broadcast television did. Americans grew into those media and providers learned to meet the demands of a more sophisticated marketplace. That’s the work that I’ve always aimed to do and hope to be part of for many years to come.
What tugs at my mind after seeing a mob of enthusiastic ignoramuses sack the Capitol, though, is whether that sophistication will come quickly enough when outlets have the means to cater to every unhealthy craving of their consumers.
Newsmax and OAN are now trying to get rich catering to the unhealthy cravings of the former Fox News watchers. Fox News is now running last in the cable news wars for the first time in 20 years. With that kind of stress, who knows what depths the network will dive to next? The schism between the news and editorial departments has always been a Faustian bargain. Maybe now it’s run its course.